CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Today, the Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID 19 and its impact on the criminal justice process. These cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes as a critical part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy. These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.
“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Attorney General Barr. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences. The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” commented ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo. “Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions. ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”
“The right to bear arms pursuant to the 2nd Amendment is a critically important Constitutional right but we best protect the 2nd Amendment by enforcing federal gun laws to prevent dangerous felons and trigger pullers from causing havoc and chaos in our communities. There is truly “no better partner” than ATF when it comes to removing dangerous trigger pullers from our communities,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “West Virginians are safer because of the concerted efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of prohibited persons and hold violent offenders accountable for their crimes through federal prosecution.”
“Violent crime in West Virginia is often tied to the possession and use of firearms by convicted felons and those intent on committing illegal activities,” stated Special Agent in Charge R. Shawn Morrow of ATF’s Louisville Field Division which includes West Virginia. “Through task forces, which bring together local and state law enforcement, ATF is making significant strides in dismantling violent criminal organizations, reducing firearms trafficking, and stopping illegal possession of firearms from Huntington to Charleston. This is our ongoing commitment to the safety and well-being of West Virginia’s citizens.”
Of the more than 14,200 defendants charged, 86 defendants have been charged in the Southern District of West Virginia, according to U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart. Below are just a few examples of cases prosecuted in the District that have taken “trigger pullers” off of the streets. The investigative leads generated by the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, have proven to be an invaluable resource in firearms-related prosecutions.
- John Miller, 23, of Charleston, was sentenced to 25 months in prison for making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, possession of a firearm in a school zone, and discharge of a firearm in a school zone. On April 7, 2019, Miller went to Cabela’s in Charleston, which is a licensed firearm dealer, and purchased a Taurus G2C 9 mm pistol. Prior to purchasing the firearm, he checked “no” in response to a question on the DOJ ATF Firearms Transaction Record Form 4473 indicating he was not an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance, although he knew that to be a false statement as he was an unlawful user of and addicted to marijuana. Shortly after purchasing the firearm, he took it within a distance of 1,000 feet of Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School and discharged it during a drug deal. The Charleston Police Department and the ATF conducted the investigation.
- Frankie D. McNeal, 25, was charged with and pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. McNeal admitted that on October 14, 2019, he went to The Empty Glass bar in Charleston with a Glock 19 9mm pistol. While at the bar, McNeal got into an altercation with a female patron. He then went outside and discharged a round from the Glock pistol through the windshield of the female’s car. Surveillance video, DNA evidence and ballistics information from NIBIN linked McNeal and the firearm. Police responding to the incident located McNeal in a nearby alley and recovered the Glock pistol from a dumpster next to where McNeal was standing. McNeal was prohibited from possessing a firearm as a result of his September 2012 conviction of first degree robbery in Kanawha County Circuit Court. McNeal faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced on December 2, 2020. The Charleston Police Department and the ATF conducted the investigation.
- Jordan Kinney, 23, of Charleston, was charged with and pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Kinney admitted that on June 14, 2019, he was present at the Go-Mart on Washington Street West in Charleston, and possessed a loaded Taurus 9mm caliber handgun, which he used to shoot approximately six times at another individual. He then fled the location and discarded the handgun in the front yard of a residence a few blocks away. The following day officers with the Charleston Police Department responded to the residence and recovered the same handgun. Ballistics information provided by NIBIN was critical to the success of the prosecution. Kinney was not allowed to possess the firearm because he had previously been convicted of robbery in the second degree. Kinney faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced on October 19, 2020. The Charleston Police Department and the ATF conducted the investigation.
- Kymoni Davis, also known as “Money,” 31, of Detroit, Michigan, was indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2020 and remained a fugitive until August when law enforcement authorities apprehended him in Detroit. He was subsequently charged by superseding indictment in September 2020 with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Davis also faces state felony charges in Cabell County, in connection with a New Year’s Day shooting in Huntington at the Kulture Hookah Bar where seven people were injured. Davis has three prior felony convictions in state court in Michigan. Davis is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted, Davis faces up to 10 years in prison. The Huntington Police Department and the ATF are conducting the investigation.
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement, such as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence. Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority of the Department of Justice and we will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law abiding people of this country safe from gun crime.
For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please see: https://www.atf.gov/qa-category/atf-form-4473.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.